Spring has sprung, and God is as faithful as He was yesterday.
We started the season with a trip to St Ninian’s for the second time this year. We played our Rock of Ages album there in January, and had such a great visit that we booked a second visit soon after. And as usual, we followed up by playing Walking With the King, and sharing the stories and Scriptures behind the songs.
We were greeted with great enthusiasm by our friend Zoe, who, during our last visit, drew a fantastic picture of us playing Rock of Ages. And she was just as friendly this time around – we were given another welcome drawing, and coffee with rusks and biscuits. Here we are with Zoe at the front of the church before the service.
Now, St Ninians isn’t a big congregation. I would say there were 25-35 people in the church. But when we sang Soldiers, they belted it with the best of them! It’s always a great encouragement to be in churches that sing like they mean it. And they meant it!
We’ve played these songs many times over the past 3 years, and each time, something different comes out. It could depend on the congregation, or even on our mood, but somehow the songs stay fresh because we sing them in different settings. And during this service, as we closed out with Walking With the King, the lyrics just got me. This is probably largely due to the fact that I finished up a Bible study/small group discussion on the song during the week (get it here!), but whatever the reason, the line “even if my life falls apart, I’ll be seeking Him with all of my heart” just up and whacked me. It’s so easy to sing that line from my cozy spot up front. But if I lost my job, as one of the St Ninians congregation members did, who we prayed for during the service? If I lost my home, like so many people in Houston have with these recent floods? If I lost my wife or my family? Would I still be seeking Him with all of my heart? Challenging stuff.
After the service (and a good cup of tea) as we were packing up, Nic, Gareth and I were discussing how the stories behind the songs make the songs that much more effective. Once you know the context in which the song was written, the words begin to omega to life in a new way. And this is why I am putting together the group discussions for our songs – I know that when you go deeper down into a song, you can find so much more than you ever would have believed was there in the first place.
On the 10th we headed off to Pretoria Wesleyan church for the first time. We’ve hardly played in Pretoria, and so this was a great treat for us, to share our songs with a new community.
We’re from Boksburg, so we had to be up and ready at the crack of dawn for the 64km drive! We made our usual stop for coffee, and then off we went. Despite a detour off the R21 because of roadworks, we made good time, and soon we were all set up and ready to play.
It had been a while since we’d played these songs – we’ve mostly been doing Walking With the King lately, which is what we do when we visit a church a second time. First time round we sing songs from Rock of Ages revisited, our first album, and I share the story behind “Never Again”. And so we revised the old songs at our Tuesday night practice, and I have to tell you, it sounded awful. Maybe we were just tired and out of practice, but I went to bed quite worried that we were losing our touch!
But all faith was restored on Sunday, when we just gelled again and played the songs like we wanted. “Rock of Ages” was typically exciting, as people heard the great old hymn with a new arrangement for the first time. We sang Don Moen’s “God is Good”, which always gets people clapping and worshiping! Then we sang “I Will Sing”, an old song of ours which we’ve given a bit of a rock flavour these days. Easy song to sing, and the congregation picked up on it quickly and seemed to really enjoy it.
Next we played our items. The usual fun ensued with “Sinner’s Blues”, and then “A Picture of Your Love” and “Come Unto Me” were both moving. Those two songs seem to really speak to people. I still remember, shortly after we released Rock of Ages the first time, I made a quick lyric video for “A Picture of Your Love”, and a group of believers in Singapore somehow saw it and were really touched by it, and they got in touch to say thank you for the song. These are special moments!
After singing “Never Again” I then told the story behind it. I’ve done this talk many times, and each time it comes out differently – sometimes things get left out, sometimes new things come to me. It’s always refreshing, and often it’s a message I need to hear again. This time a particular line stuck out – right at the end of the song, the line “You love me, more than I can understand, more than I can ever see”. Pastor Cheryl spoke afterwards of how she just can’t fathom why God would love us, as she looks around at the state of the world. But He does, and the more we try to fathom it and figure it out, the less we understand!
We finished with “How Great Thou Art”, and then soon we were off to the East Rand again, satisfied in God’s glory. What a privilege to share these songs and see how He works in them.
Randpark Ridge United
On the 17th we headed out to Randpark Ridge United to lead the two morning services. It had been almost a year and a half since our first visit, and we were so looking forward to seeing some friendly faces and sharing our Walking With the King songs.
Good times at Randpark Ridge United Church yesterday morning!
As usual, we played a shortened version of the set for the early service, and then the whole album at the 09:30. As I said earlier, each time we play these songs something different comes out, and in this case, the words of the song “Everything About You” seemed to jump out at me: “When I think of all the wondrous things you’ve done, I can only stand in awe of the Almighty One… I will raise my hands and praise Your holy name, because You set me free and I will never be the same”. Simple words, and words that I honestly find myself skipping over often when we sing it. And man, that is sad… Why do we so quickly grow numb to words that proclaim God’s glory? We can only stand in awe when we reflect on what God has done, and how He has set us free. And that is why we write these songs and sing them time and time again – we need to constantly remind ourselves, and refocus on Him in many ways.
I also found that the words in “Even So” hit home. Usually my mind tends to drift as I get ready for my very weak harmonica part – I’m no harmonica player, and so I often find myself panicking slightly as it approaches! But this time the words “even so, even so, you have loved me even so, when I fell down at the cross, You washed me clean from head to toe” were just what I needed to hear.
We shared a prayer afterward just thanking God for the opportunity to sing these songs, and asking that the people would leave with a sense of His presence, His greatness and His love – rather than just having enjoyed some music. And that is what it’s all about for us – making excellent music to the glory of God, yes – and in that, pointing people to Him and not us.
Slowly but surely our new album There’s a Light is coming together. God-willing we will be finished in January, and then we’ll spend Sundays in 2018 and 2019 going from church to church with the new songs. Great excitement!
We have a lot on the go in the next while, we hope to see you at one of these events:
24 Sept: Emseni Methodist 07:30 (Luke solo)
30 Sept: Nigel Methodist fete 09:00 – 12:00
1 Oct: Boksburg North Methodist 09:00
7 Oct: Glory Festival, Heidelberg 14:00
21 Oct: Bikers Church Midrand, worship 16:00
22 Oct: Primrose Methodist, 08:00 and 09:30
God bless, and keep walking with the King!